Italy has announced its first drop in the number of patients suffering from the coronavirus since the country’s first infection was recorded in February.
Italy’s civil protection service said the total number of coronavirus cases, both for those being treated in hospital or diagnosed with the illness and now at home, had fallen to 108,237. The figure was down by 20 from the total recorded one day earlier.
The fall marks a significant milestone for the southern European nation which, with 24,114 deaths from the novel coronavirus, is the second worst hit country in the world by number of deaths, behind only the United States.
The reduction in cases is another sign Italy is turning the tide of the public health emergency. Earlier in April the country also saw its daily death rate from the disease fall for the first time, the first indication it was beginning to flatten the curve of the outbreak.
After a nationwide lockdown was put in place at the beginning of March, the authorities in Italy have started tentatively developing plans for reopening parts of their economy.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday he would announce a strategy for the gradual relaxing of restrictions at the end of this week. Those plans will come into force after May 4.
"I wish I could say: 'let's reopen everything, immediately, we start tomorrow morning' ... But such a decision would be irresponsible. It would make the contagion curve go up in an uncontrolled way and would nullify all the efforts we have made so far," the prime minister wrote in a Facebook post. "We must act on the basis of a national plan, which takes into account the territorial peculiarities."
After the government closed businesses not deemed essential to the supply chain on March 22, industry lobbies have pressed for more activity to be restarted to avert an economic catastrophe.
Mr Conte said the easing of restrictions would happen on the basis of a thorough study backed by scientific data and not to "satisfy a part of public opinion or to satisfy the requests of some production categories, individual companies or specific regions".
Italy’s fragmented regional politics, which came to the fore during the country’s disjointed initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, has already been brought to bear on Mr Conte’s plans.
Attilio Fontana, the head of the regional government in Lombardy, has railed against the possibility of an early reopening.
Mr Fontana, who is president of the region the hardest hit by the coronavirus, said the nature of the country’s supply chains meant a return to normality in one region could spread infection elsewhere.
“I am convinced that the reopening must take place when the risk of contagion has ended or is nearing its conclusion throughout the territory,” Mr Fontana said according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.
“There is the risk that the infection can resume without knowing where it starts,” he added.